Due to an increase in research and awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, you probably have been hearing and seeing the words “gluten free”, “celiac disease”, and “gluten sensitivity” more frequently in the media, on food packages, or from family and friends. Because of this, many people are asking, “Is gluten bad for everyone?”, “What foods contain gluten?”, “How do I know if I have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity?”
Celiac disease affects 1 out of 133 people in the United States. It is a genetically based autoimmune disease triggered by a specific food component, gluten. When individuals with celiac disease eat gluten, the villi (tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food) are damaged and therefore, nutrient absorption is affected. This may occur with or without symptoms. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten free diet. If celiac disease is suspected, it is important that a diagnosis by a physician be made first before eliminating gluten from the diet. More recently, gluten sensitivity is being recognized as a disorder distinct from celiac disease. A specific definition and ways to diagnose gluten sensitivity remains unclear.
A gluten free diet consists of completely avoiding wheat, rye, barley and their derivatives. For celiac disease, it is important that gluten containing ingredients are recognized on food labels and that areas of cross contamination are identified. The amount of gluten that may affect an individual with celiac disease is equivalent to ½ to 1 teaspoon of bread. While the gluten free diet is necessary and beneficial for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, it may not be beneficial for others. If healthy gluten free alternatives are not substituted, the diet could lack in certain nutrients such as fiber and may contain more sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian (RD) is strongly recommended for individuals with celiac disease. The National Institute of Health considers consultation with a skilled RD and continuous long-term follow-up by a multi-disciplinary team to play key roles in the management of celiac disease. A registered dietitian not only can help individuals identify hidden gluten in their diet but can also provide recommendations for satisfying, healthy gluten free alternatives and recipes, meal planning, and can identify and help treat any nutrient deficiencies.
Digestive Care Center now offers nutrition therapy services provided by a Registered Certified Dietitian as part of a comprehensive approach to meet your unique healthcare needs!
Check out the nutrition services section on our website for more information and call to schedule an appointment with the dietitian today.